japan

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask me to develop a recipe for Chicken Karaage. It just so happened that this past weekend I needed a break from developing recipes for my next cookbook, and I was craving fried chicken, so it felt like the perfect time to work on this fan favorite.

In Japanese, Karaage (唐揚げ) is not necessarily a direct translation of the dish, but rather the cooking method. The first kanji character, 唐, translates to “Tang Dynasty”, or more loosely, “China”, which suggests that this dish was influenced by Chinese cuisine. Chicken Karaage itself has only been recently popular in Japan, mostly over the past 50 years, but it was likely first developed during the Edo period (1603-1868).

The key to a crispy Karaage is to toss the chicken in potato starch to form a light coating right before you drop it in hot oil. I like to use lard when frying chicken, but I’ve heard some amazing things about Chicken Karaage fried in duck fat, so if you have any on hand, maybe try that instead. I like to pair my Karaage with a citrusy Ponzu dipping sauce, but many people also prefer Japanese (Kewpie) mayo.

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It’s been a while since I shared a recipe from one of my cookbooks, and now seems like a perfect time to share one of my favorites from Paleo Takeout: Gyudon! It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m super busy with work stuff right now, promise.

Gyudon, a donburi (rice bowl) dish, first became popular in the 1800s as Japan westernized and started eating more beef. Today, this dish is associated with quick meals. Nearly every Gyudon shop in Japan serves this dish with complimentary Miso Soup.

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Takuan is a Japanese dish of fermented daikon radish. It is a form of Tsukemono (Japanese pickled veggies), which are served as side dishes or snacks, and are even part of the Japanese tea ceremony. Takuan in particular is often served at the end of meal to help digestion. The name “Takuan” is often attributed to Takuan Soho, a 17th century Zen Buddhist figure and the creative basis for the character Dakuan from the anime film Ninja Scroll. Korean cuisine has a similar pickled daikon radish dish, called Danmuji (단무지).

The daikon radish itself made its way to Japan from China about 2,000 years ago. Today, more land in Japan is used to grow daikon than any other vegetable. Takuan sold in many stores today is dyed yellow with food coloring; I was able to get a similar color by using a tiny bit of turmeric while pickling the radishes.

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